Lactose refers to a type of sugar that is found naturally in most milk. Lactose intolerance refers to an inability to break down this sugar.
Humans produce an enzyme known as lactose. This enzyme is responsible for breaking down lactose into a usable form. It’s especially important in infants, who are breastfeeding and need more milk than adult humans do.
When you get older, your body naturally produces less lactose. So, for many people, lactose intolerance is something that happens naturally and can’t be avoided. If you’ve noticed any of the following symptoms, it could be that lactose intolerance is the reason for it.
Bloating: Bloating refers to the distended gut you get sometimes after a big meal. It’s when your belly appears larger than normal, but instead of flabby fat, it’s just a hard, round bloat. Bloating on its own might not be enough to signal that you’re suffering from lactose intolerance, but if it is particularly painful, or if you notice it especially after eating dairy, then the chances that it could be related to lactose intolerance are greater.
Gas: If your gas is accompanied by pain, or if you notice gas and bloating happening together, then that could be a sign that lactose intolerance is a factor. This excessive gas is caused by the fermentation of lactose in your gut. If you’re lactose intolerant, it means the lactose will ferment more inside your gut, which can cause a buildup of gas and flatulence.
Loose stool: An increase in the volume of water present in your colon, which can cause your stool to be looser. Again, like the other symptoms on this list, there are lots of possible causes for loose stool.
Painful digestion: When you suffer from lactose intolerance, the bacteria in your gut have a harder time breaking down the lactose in dairy, and it can cause blockages or painful cramps. If you regularly notice pain in your gut relating to digestion, it could be a case of lactose intolerance.
What you can do…
It’s true that many different dishes and cuisines contain loads and loads of dairy. It can be a hard ingredient to avoid, especially if you frequently eat fast food options and other highly processed foods.
Unfortunately, you may have to get used to asking for “no cheese please” when you go out to eat, if you are in fact lactose intolerant. Still, if you do suffer from lactose intolerance, it’s important to make your condition known to friends and family, so they can help you monitor your dairy intake and help make sure you eat foods that are low in lactose.
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